The Hague, March 23 (OurVoice): The Bengali community in Europe is stepping up efforts to have Pakistan’s actions in Bangladesh in 1971 recognised as genocide.
Activists gathered outside the International Criminal Court and permanent Shaheed Minar in the Hague in the Netherlands on March 23, calling for international action.
This was part of the day long program of the Europe-based diaspora organization European Bangladesh Forum (EBF) on “international recognition of 1971 genocide in Bangladesh’ in the Hague.
A number of experts with international reputation, working on this area from the UK America, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland and Bangladesh participated in the conference.
EBF Vice President Writer and Journalist Bikash Chowdhury Barua opened the conference with his opening remarks and provided background of the thematic issue of the seminar. Jakob de Jong, Director of The Hague Peace, The Netherlands chaired the seminar, while Chris Blackburn, Political Analyst and Journalist, from the UK, Shomi Kaiser, daughter of martyred intellectual and writer Shahidullah Kaiser, Dr. Wolfgang-Peter Zingel, South Asia Institute (SAI), University of Heidelberg, Germany presented key note papers. Arif Yousuf, Film Director of BLOCAKDE from America and Duncan Bartlett, British journalist, Bangladesh Ambassador in the Netherlands Sheikh Mohammad Belal attended the seminar as honored guests and addressed while EBF President Ansar Ahmed Ullah moderated the panel discussio. Jahangir Chowdhury, AL Secretary of Belgium also spoke. Video messages of Dr. Meghna Guha Thakurta and Dr Nuzhat Chowdhury from Dhaka were screened on the day. Both are the members of the martyred intellectual families.
Among others Diplomat from South African Embassy in The Netherlands Andre Stammet, Member of the Executive Board of PEN Finland Dr MojiburDoftori, Mahmud Hassan, EBF Secretary Bikash Roy, Coordinator of Global Solidarity for Peace Committee M M Morshed, community leaders Murad Khan, Daud Khan Sohel, Khokon Sharif, Dutch-Bangladeshi Industrialist Jasim Uddin Litton, Social Worker Monowar Mohammad took part in the open discussion.
They said that more than three million people were killed when the Pakistani Army used force to suppress an independence campaign. They also said there was widespread sexual violence against women, including rape and gang rape.“Bangladesh cannot move forward until it faces its past,” said Shomi Kaiser, whose father was killed by the Pakistani army when she was a child. “The fight for justice is a long battle,” she said.
Kaiser said, it was appropriate to focus the campaign in the Hague because it is regarded as “the city of justice” due to its history of court cases trying crimes against humanity.
Dr Wolfgang-Peter Zingel, from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, told the European Bangladesh Forum: “The genocide in Bangladesh was not an accident of history.” Drawing comparisons with the Holocaust of Jews by the Nazis, Dr Zingel warned, “If you want to prevent such atrocities happening again, you must look in detail at their causes and record them.”
British political analyst Chris Blackburn said international cooperation was the best way to respond to human rights violations and noted that many of the issues from 1971 are still relevant to South Asia. “Some people say, ‘let sleeping dogs lie’,” said Blackburn. “But these are not sleeping dogs – these are dogs which are still biting.”
The event in the Hague included the screening of a documentary film entitled “Blockade” which examined the response of the peace movement to Pakistan’s violence in the early 1970s.The film’s director Arif Yousuf said, he wanted to highlight the support by the United States government for the Pakistani army at that time, which he said was part of President Nixon’s strategy to contain Communism in Asia.
The Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands, Sheikh Mohammad Belal, said, “No other country should face the injustice and trauma that Bangladesh has endured.”Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed by soldiers loyal to Pakistan, has declared March 25th a national day to commemorate genocide.The date falls on the anniversary of the start of Operation Searchlight in 1971, which marked the start of military actions in what was then known as East Pakistan.
EBF had also organised a photo exhibition displaying the brutality and killings by the Pakistani army and their local collaborators during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.
Following the seminar, a reception was held for the guests and participants in BASUG office, where Shomi Kaiser, Shyamol Shil, Simu Nahar, Shompa Bala and German-Bangladeshi Singer Abdul Munim rendered musical soiree. Poet Monwar Mohammad, Mir Zabeda Yeasmin Imi and Hossain Abdul Hai recited their self composed poems.